According to a recent news article reporting on the latest vitamin study, vitamin B12 failed to improve the mental function of the participants.
The results of the study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, contradict numerous studies that have previously shown (without a doubt) that vitamin B12 helps regulate the nervous system, reduces depression, stress, and brain shrinkage – associated with memory loss and reduced cognitive function.
Other known and well-documented benefits of vitamin B12 include: warding off heart disease by curbing unhealthy cholesterol levels and protecting against stroke as well as high blood pressure. It is essential for healthy hair, nails and skin by assisting cell reproduction and constant renewal of the skin. As if these aren’t already enough reasons to supplement with vitamin B12, this powerful vitamin also helps protect against cancers including breast, colon, lung, and prostate cancer.
So really, all I have to say about these latest results is: Don’t fall for it – not for the results of the study and certainly not for the media’s take on them.
This is a classic example of the phenomenon called ‘Press Release Medicine’ – when researchers issue a press release about the results of a study in which they make bold claims and then count on lazy and under-qualified reporters to publish the results, without questioning them.
An accurate low-down on the benefits of B12
Let’s first take a look at the media’s take on these results (and frankly, when you read the study it’s quite clear that essential details have been left out):
The researchers recruited 201 participants over the age of 75 and with a moderate vitamin B12 deficiency. In this double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial, the participants either took a daily vitamin B12 supplement or a placebo for one year.
Before and after the trial, the participants underwent tests for muscle strength, co-ordination, mobility, memory and thinking skills, and psychological health.
According to their results, the researchers concluded that they found no evidence of vitamin B12 benefiting the neurological function or the nervous system of the participants who supplemented with the vitamin over 12 months.
According to the news article, these results are pretty much cut and dry: Don’t take vitamin B12 to boost your memory. You’ll be wasting your time and money.
Now, let’s look at the actual study in more detail:
The study only lasted a year. That’s very short by any clinical standards. Numerous previous studies that proved the memory-boosting benefits of vitamin B12, were much longer.
For instance, take the results of a five year study, published in the journal, Neurology, elderly patients with higher blood levels of vitamin B12 were found to be six times less likely to experience brain shrinkage and dementia compared to those with lower vitamin B12 levels.
The researchers used a synthetic form of vitamin B12, called cyanocobalamin – an inferior and manmade version of vitamin B12. If the researchers really wanted to prove the neurological benefits of vitamin B12, they would’ve used (at the very least) an advanced vitamin B12 formula that combines methylcobalamin and adenosylcobalamin.
Methylcobalamin and adenosylcobalamin have different functions but work synergistically (together), and can especially benefit those with a vitamin B12 deficiency.
The more superior form of vitamin B12 is hydroxocobalamin – mostly found in food. It is not easily available as a supplement and is usually given intravenously.
The daily dosage given to the participants was 1 milligram… Yes. ONE. The recommended daily dosage for vitamin B12 deficiency is 2 milligrams and for neurological problems (including memory loss) the therapeutic level can be up to 6 milligrams.
Considering that the study’s participants all had mild vitamin B12 deficiency, it is laughable (to say the least) that the researchers even attempted to show positive neurological benefits by giving the participants only half the recommended dosage.
Vitamins, minerals and other nutrients do not work in isolation. Vitamin B12 works better in conjunction with other B-vitamins (specifically thiamine, riboflavin, folic acid and vitamin B6) as well as calcium, zinc and cobalt, and the enzyme l-lysine.
Adding to that, it’s a known fact that as we age our levels of healthy gut bacteria drop, making it more difficult for our bodies to absorb all the nutrients we need to keep us healthy. This is one of the reasons why elderly patients are often deficient in many essential vitamins and nutrients.
In fact, according to Dr. Gina Shaw (a qualified medical professional specialising in Natural Hygiene and Complementary Medicine), vitamin B12 deficiency in the elderly is usually a symptom of a larger problem like poor intestinal flora, poor absorption and gastric disorders… And if your digestive system is on the crank your health goes to pot… It’s as simple as that.
So, in order to get maximum benefits from any supplement therapy – especially for elderly patients – vitamins and nutrients should be taken along with pre- and probiotics to increase nutrient absorption. This was not even considered by the researchers in this latest study.
Instead, they conducted a very short study, gave the participants an inferior dose of a synthetic vitamin, did not consider other factors like digestive problems or a lack of other essential nutrients and yet they expected to see positive results.
That’s what I call setting yourself up for failure…
As for the news article, well I can’t say I expected anything more from a lazy mainstream journalist. Sadly, patients who can possibly benefit from supplementing with vitamin B12 could easily lap up this kind of misinformation and end up missing out on a very easy and cheap way to improve their brain function and so much more.
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Effects of vitamin B-12 supplementation on neurologic and cognitive function in older people: a randomized controlled trial, published 05.06.2015, ajcn.nutrition.org
Benefits of vitamin B12 supplements for older people questioned, published online 01.07.15, medicalxpress.com
THE VITAMIN B12 ISSUE, by Dr Gina Shaw, D.Sc, M.A., Dip NH, AIYS (Dip. Irid.), published online, vibrancyuk.com
Methylcobalamin & Adenosylcobalamin, published online, veganhealth.org
B12: Why you need Methylcobalamin and Adenosylcobalamin, published online 10.02.15, seekinghealth.com
Vitamin B12 status and rate of brain volume loss in community-dwelling elderly, Authors: A. Vogiatzoglou, H. Refsum, C. Johnston, S. M. Smith, K. M. Bradley, C. de Jager, M. M. Budge, A. D. Smith
Vitamin can prevent memory loss, published online 08/09/08, bbc.co.uk